Upper Valley weekend fires damage grandstand, apartment and barn


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2024 8:15 PM

Modified: 04-09-2024 10:47 AM

WEST LEBANON — Firefighters in the Upper Valley had a busy weekend, in which three separate structure fires — in Claremont, Hanover and Canaan — occurred on Sunday afternoon.

At noon, the Claremont Fire Department responded to Barnes Park on North Street, where the upper seating area of the grandstand overlooking the recreational field was on fire.

“Fire personnel were able to make a quick knockdown of the fire, preventing the fire from extending into the roof structure and the large storage area (underneath the seating area),” the department said in a press release.

The fire is considered suspicious and is being investigated in collaboration with the Claremont Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Claremont Fire Chief Jim Chamberlain said on Monday.

The flames significantly damaged the upper section of seats, Chamberlain said in a phone interview.

“This incident represents the importance of having a full-time fire department in the city,” Chamberlain said. “If there were any significant delays in the response there would have been a complete loss of that grandstand,” which provides seating for Stevens High School’s home football games.

This was the city’s third structure fire in three weeks, including a garage fire on River Road on March 21 and a house fire at 28 High Street on March 22.

Anyone who was in the vicinity at the time of the incident is asked to contact Claremont Fire Department Lt. William Hardy at 603-542-5156 or the Claremont Police Department at 603-542-9538.

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At 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, the Hanover Fire Department responded to a first-alarm fire at 32 West Wheelock St., an apartment building containing 12 units.

Fire crews extinguished a kitchen fire and prevented it from spreading, a department press release stated.

The occupant was out of town and tenants of the other units vacated the building, which is equipped with a fire alarm system, according to the release.

The department was notified of the fire by an alarm activation at the building, as well as a call from a resident who saw smoke coming from the building, Acting Chief Michael Gilbert said.

“The building’s smoke alarm and detection system was the biggest factor in the response time and the ability (of personnel) to contain the fire and keep it from spreading to other apartments,” Gilbert said in a phone interview.

The affected apartment sustained significant damage. The other units were able to be reoccupied by their tenants once the fire was extinguished, according to the release.

Lebanon-based realty firm Purcell Properties owns the building, according to town property records.

On Monday, the company was attempting to reach the tenant, who was still out of town, Gilbert said.

The fire is still under investigation, but it does not appear to be suspicious in nature, Gilbert said.

Hanover received mutual aid from Lebanon, Hartford, Norwich and Lyme.

A third fire in Canaan on Sunday afternoon resulted in the destruction of a detached barn at 173 Prospect Hill Road.

Nancy Birkrem, a neighbor, said she heard two explosions at the property sometime after 2 p.m.

When she went outside to investigate, she counted fire engines and emergency vehicles from several area departments, including Canaan, Enfield, Plainfield, Grafton and Hanover.

Birkrem, reached by phone on Monday, said she walked up the street to watch fire crews work to suppress the blaze.

“They did a fine job getting the fire under control,” said Birkrem.

The barn was destroyed, though the single-family home on the property appeared undamaged, said Birkrem, who visited the property again this morning.

Attempts to reach Canaan Fire Chief Rick Colburn by phone and email were unsuccessful on Monday.

Canaan To wn Administrator Chet Hagenbarth confirmed the fir e but said he did not have sufficient information to discuss the details.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-7216.

CORRECTIONS: A fire at 173 Prospect Hill Road in Canaan occ urred around 2 p.m. on Sunday. A previous version of this story reported an incorrect time and date of the fire. Chet Hagenbarth holds the position of town administrator in Canaan. His position was incorrect in a previous version of this story.